Kim Klement/USA TODAY
When the Magic signed veteran point guard Ronnie Price in the offseason, fans consistently gave a puzzled look.
Here was a player who had career averages of 3.5 points per game and 1.4 assists per game. In eight seasons in the NBA, he has bounced around four different teams and played 60 or more games just twice in his career. Then there was the age — now 30 years old — which confused Magic fans expecting and hoping for a young point guard for the team to develop or unearth.
That was not the purpose of this signing.
Price was brought in for his leadership qualities. He was brought in because he had this experience and because he had to work to just stay in the league.
Only time will tell whether the Magic opted to go in the right direction under this rationale and whether he can win fans over. That is not Price's purpose or motivation.
"I'm going to let my play take care of itself," Price said. "I'm not trying necessarily trying to win anybody over. I play the game with an extreme amount of passion. Hopefully my style of play can help this team. If fans enjoy the way I play, that's great. If fans don't, I still have a job here that has to be done. It's up to me as a professional to complete that."
As somewhat expected, Price has not gotten that far off the Magic bench. In the first four games, he has played 15 total minutes. His stats are largely inconsequential and he has been deicdedly out of the rotation to this point.
That does not mean he is not playing a role however. As was suspected when the Magic signed him, it is his behind-the-scenes leadership and work in practice that will likely drive his contribution to the team.
Magic fans got to see a little bit of that during the preseason when he made his home debut by hounding offensive players full court and bringing energy to the largely sleepy preseason games. It was noticeable to see Price flying around on defense, trying to get stops.
It is this role that Vaughn envisions for him.
"He doesn't know what is going to happen overnight or tomorrow," Jacque Vaughn said following a preseason game last month. "He gave his all to his team tonight and that's what he does. And then when he wakes up in the morning and sees that sunshine again, he'll give his all the next day in practice tomorrow. And the next day in the game. That is what he is teaching our young fellas that this is really a great job to have. You want to be in this league for a long time. He has done it the right way and I love having him in our locker room."
Price has had to fight his way into the league time and time again. That attitude is seen every time he steps on the court.
And it is seen from the Magic's young players and appreciated by them as they learn from him.
"Ronnie always gives you a pointer every day. It's kind of hard not to learn from him," Victor Oladipo said. "He gets after it on both ends of the floor as well. For him, it was a different journey than all of ours. You have such a high respect for him for how he came into the league and how he got here and how long he has been here. It's kind of hard not to listen to him."
It is clear Price took a much different rout than Victor Oladipo, who has virtually taken the backup point guard minutes along with E'Twaun Moore. But Price is a hard worker. That is what Orlando brought him in to do. And he is playing that role.
Price said he sees his role as doing whatever the coach asks him to do and providing a spark on the floor. Price said he takes nothing for granted and that he relishes the opportunity to be a mentor and leader for the players on this team, like those that helped him out when he was younger.
Price said it pretty clearly, one of his goals is to leave a lasting mark on the Magic's young players in the way they carry themselves.
"I've been blessed in my younger age to have older guys around me who helped show me a lot of things that you can't prepare for on your own in this league," Price said. "I'm very thankful for having those guys around me in my life and for having those guys around me in my career. Hopefully some of these younger guys can say the same thing about me. if not, it means I did something wrong."
Price does not quite fit into the long-term plans. He is not the oldest guy in the league, but compared to the young players on this roster, he is a bit longer in the tooth. Price has much more miles on his legs and his body. Being around the young players should help him regain his energy.
That trademark energy that pushes his teammates and practices and, when he gets the opportunity, opponents on the floor.
While fans might have been confused where the fit with Price was, Ronnie sees it as a perfect match.
"As far as fitting in with this team, I don't see myself as a 40-year-old guy, I feel like my body still has a lot of miles left on it," Price said. "Being around a bunch of younger guys, even if you do feel a bit old, they make you feel young again anyway. My job here is to be a verbal leader and sit back and be a leader by example as well. I take my role seriously and I take this game seriously. I hope people understand that."